J Plant Ecol ›› 2018, Vol. 11 ›› Issue (1): 158-167.

• Research Articles •

### Structural, compositional and trait differences between the mature and the swamp meadow communities

Honglin Li1, Kailiang Yu2, Danghui Xu1, Wei Li3, Dorjeeh Tondrob4 and Guozhen Du1,*

1. 1 State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-ecosystems, School of Life Science, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China; 2 Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA; 3 Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences & Ministry of Water Resource, Yangling 712100, China; 4 Institute of Grassland Science, Tibet Academy of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Science, Lhasa 850009, China
• Received:2015-11-30 Accepted:2016-11-29 Published:2018-01-18
• Contact: Du, Guozhen

Abstract: Aims The mature meadows (MMs) and the swamp meadows (SMs) are the two most important ecosystems in the eastern Tibetan Plateau, China. Besides their substantial differences in terms of soil water conditions and thereby the soil oxygen and nutrients, however, little is known about the differences in community composition, structure, traits and productivity between these two meadows. We particularly ask whether light availability mediated by physical structure heterogeneity is a key determinant of the difference in community composition and productivity between these two meadows.
Methods We examined the community structure, composition, aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), light availability in understory and the community-weighted means (CWMs) for leaf morphological and physiological traits in 12 random plots (5 m × 5 m) for each of the studied habitats.
Important findings The results showed that plant community in the MM had higher variation in both vertical and horizontal structure and thus had more light availability in the understory. The MM had higher species richness and greater ANPP than the SM. The CWMs of leaf morphological and physiological traits for species in the MM featured a fast-growing strategy (i.e. higher height, leaf area and net photosynthesis rate and lower nitrogen:phosphorus ratio), in contrast to those in the SM. We also found that there were significant correlations between the CWM of traits and the ANPP, indicating that some key traits in these habitats have linked to community productivity. Our study also suggests that the heterogeneity in the community structure, which affects light availability in the understory, may play an important role in determining the community composition and productivity. In conclusion, our study revealed significant differences in community structure, composition and traits between the MM and the SM, and the light availability that related closely to community structure is the key factor to determine the composition and productivity of the community of these two habitats.

Aims The mature meadows (MMs) and the swamp meadows (SMs) are the two most important ecosystems in the eastern Tibetan Plateau, China. Besides their substantial differences in terms of soil water conditions and thereby the soil oxygen and nutrients, however, little is known about the differences in community composition, structure, traits and productivity between these two meadows. We particularly ask whether light availability mediated by physical structure heterogeneity is a key determinant of the difference in community composition and productivity between these two meadows.
Methods We examined the community structure, composition, aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), light availability in understory and the community-weighted means (CWMs) for leaf morphological and physiological traits in 12 random plots (5 m × 5 m) for each of the studied habitats.
Important findings The results showed that plant community in the MM had higher variation in both vertical and horizontal structure and thus had more light availability in the understory. The MM had higher species richness and greater ANPP than the SM. The CWMs of leaf morphological and physiological traits for species in the MM featured a fast-growing strategy (i.e. higher height, leaf area and net photosynthesis rate and lower nitrogen:phosphorus ratio), in contrast to those in the SM. We also found that there were significant correlations between the CWM of traits and the ANPP, indicating that some key traits in these habitats have linked to community productivity. Our study also suggests that the heterogeneity in the community structure, which affects light availability in the understory, may play an important role in determining the community composition and productivity. In conclusion, our study revealed significant differences in community structure, composition and traits between the MM and the SM, and the light availability that related closely to community structure is the key factor to determine the composition and productivity of the community of these two habitats.